This is the second in a series of several articles on voice of the customer (VOC); the first is "How Voice of the Customer Got Its Groove Back (and How to Stay in Tune)."

Marketing: on the cusp of a transformation

At least four major reports issued this year have implied that you, as a marketer, are missing the VOC boat. One of those pieces, by Forrester, said almost 80% of marketers don't influence critical customer interactions such as customer service, and 85% don't even own the "four Ps" anymore.1 Despite such criticism, we see marketing on the edge of its (and your) most significant, albeit difficult, transformation—to that of a VOC leader.

The difficulty? Most marketers lack support for VOC or just don't know how to carry out such initiatives effectively. A recent strategy+business article explained the difficulty this way: "If the average marketing team believes itself undervalued in the corporate hierarchy, it is because most marketers haven't taken on, or been given, the role that would make them more valued."2 It is that "more valued" role we're talking about; the relevant role—in which you are helping the company better understand the perceptions and needs of the customer, resulting in a sustained impact and customer retention for more than the next discounted product or batch of free services.

I think you would agree that the role of marketing, in its truest and most global sense, is to define opportunities, distill customer characteristics and needs, and equip the company and its partners to capture and monetize those needs. Marketing helps the company keep customers by gathering, assessing and communicating critical customer input regarding solution innovation and service requirements. It helps sales stay well positioned with in-account intel and continually monitors customer loyalty, profitability, and willingness to refer.

You might also agree with a summation in Forrester's recent "Reinventing the Marketing Organization" report that explains what needs to happen for you to transition and, thus, to successfully fill that role: "To regain effectiveness, marketers must transition to a Customer-Centric Marketing Organization."3 You might further agree that, if you and your team are to transform marketing into a "customer-centric" organization, you need customer insight and intelligence—or voice of the customer—to influence each step of the marketing process.

VOC: paving the path toward relevance

The concept of transitioning your marketing organization into a relevant leader by way of VOC is simple to understand, as is the concept of voice of the customer itself—the act of gathering, analyzing, and acting on customer intelligence and insight. Someone once said "just ask the customer." Well... sort of, but it's not as simple as that. In reality, voice of the customer is challenging to implement across an enterprise, especially if you're in marketing, and even more especially if you're in one of those marketing organizations that lack influence over critical customer interactions or have lost hold of the "four Ps."

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Promise Phelon is president and CEO of UpMo and founder of the Phelon Group.

Twitter: @PromisePhelon

LinkedIn: Promise Phelon